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JANUARY 19, 2018

Big pressure on McLaren in 2018 says Vandoorne

Stoffel Vandoorne says McLaren is under "big pressure" to perform in 2018.

Days ago, the Belgian's boss at the British team - Eric Boullier - insisted: "We do not feel additional pressure.

"On the contrary. The team is motivated by the fact that we will have two strong rivals in Red Bull and Renault."

Indeed, after three bad years with Honda power, McLaren is switching to customer Renault engines for 2018.

Also using Renault power this year are expected title contenders Red Bull and the Renault works team.

It will put McLaren's claim of having one of the very best chassis on the grid under the microscope.

"In 2018 the pressure on the team is big because we have big points of comparison next to us," team driver Vandoorne, 25, told the Belgian broadcaster RTBF.

"Red Bull won races last season and Renault has also done well, so the pressure is there. But it is also positive and we need it to progress," he added.

Vandoorne also said it is an important season for him personally, after a difficult start to his F1 career last year alongside Fernando Alonso.

"I still have work to do to be able to put a weekend together and better understand the car," he admitted.

"The speed is there if I put all the elements together," Vandoorne said.

"We have not set a goal for the season. For me, my point of reference is Fernando Alonso even if I focus mainly on myself. The results last year were not what I expected but I am now much stronger for the new season," he added.

"I was able to discover my team, my engineers and the circuits, and I also learned from an excellent teammate in Fernando how to adapt to a car that is not necessarily efficient and how to manage problems during a season."

All teams will reveal their 2018 cars late next month ahead of the start of Barcelona testing, and Vandoorne says he has already had his first taste of McLaren's contender in the simulator.

"I had my first day in the simulator and with the engineers and we were able to discuss a lot about the new car," he said.

"I had my first feeling of the 2018 car -- the change (to Renault) will be great for us. Everyone is motivated to start testing and see what we can do on the track.

"We will know a little more about how the season will unfold in Barcelona," Vandoorne added.

(GMM)